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Mike and Tony Petrakis are a Greek father and son team who dive for sponges off the coast of Florida. After they are robbed by crooks, Arnold and the Rhys brothers, Mike decides to take his men to the dangerous 12-mile reef to dive for more sponges. Mike suffers a fatal accident when he falls from the reef leaving Tony to carry on the business. But now he has a companion, Gwyneth Rhys. Written by
Memorable Cinematography & Score Highlight This Melodrama
Directed by Robert D. Webb and released in 1953, this saga of competing sea sponge divers was noted for its drop-dead gorgeous cinematography and a brilliant score by composer Bernard Herrmann--and these remain the great assets of the film to this day.
The story is pure melodrama given an exotic twist. The Petrakis and Rhys families earn their livings by diving for sea sponges, but when the Rhys family, led by father Thomas (Richard Boone) resort to dirty tricks the Petrakis family, led by father Mike (Gilbert Roland) are forced to resort to risky dives at the dangerous 'Twelve Mile' reef; at the same time a love affair between son Tony Petrakis (Robert Wagner) and daughter Gwyneth Rhys (Terry Moore) further complicate the rivalry. Needless to say, tragedy results.
Both Wagner and Moore were considered rising stars when the film was made, and although Wagner makes for an unconvincing Greek both give enjoyable performances as the star-crossed lovers caught Romeo and Juliet fashion between battling families. Even so, the acting honors here go to Gilbert Roland and Richard Boone as the warring fathers with a special nod to Peter Graves as Arnold, an overly aggressive Rhys diver. Several notable character actors, including J. Carroll Nash, Jay Novello, and Harry Carey Jr. round out the cast.
Although the cast is solid, the plot is more than a little predictable--but the chief thing is the photography and the score. REEF was among the earliest productions made in Cinemascope, and everyone concerned was determined to make it as visually attractive as possible. The result is some truly beautiful cinematography, particularly in reference to the film's many underwater scenes. The score by Bernard Herrmann, who would later be best known for his work on such Hitchcock films as VERTIGO, also captures the beauty of the sea to remarkable effect.
Unfortunately, REEF seems to have fallen into public domain, and there are numerous DVD and VHS releases on the market. In most cases they are abominable things: the cinemascope has been reduced to pan and scan, the colors are muddy, and the sound is poor. There are, however, at least a few available that give you some idea of what all the 1953 fuss was about. Although they are hardly renowned for the quality of their product, the Digiview Productions release is actually quite good; the Digital Gold release is also more than respectable.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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